Thursday, September 6, 2012

Blakeney pushing for bigger crowd (and other notes)

Figured this would be a good topic, since it's the Sun Belt games where Troy needs a bigger crowd. This should be a pretty hotly contested game. ULL brings back some talent and some passionate, energetic coaches (you saw the blood running down the strength coach's face in the New Orleans Bowl) and Troy hasn't forgotten last year's loss.

This story is in the Thursday print edition of the Dothan Eagle and on dothaneagle.com HERE.

BY DREW CHAMPLIN | dchamplin@dothaneagle.com

TROY – Troy head coach Larry Blakeney remembers the 29,775 fans on hand for last year’s game between Louisiana-Lafayette and Troy in Lafayette, La.

Now, he’s begging for that same kind of support this Saturday when the Trojans (1-0) host the Ragin’ Cajuns (1-0) at 6 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Stadium.

“Followship is something that’s very important,” Blakeney said. “These guys had a great crowd last year, I think the best (at the time, sixth best) in their school history, and they're going to bring a ton of folks up there.
“We need to do everything we can as Troy folks or football fans in general, to get here. If you’re not going to Alabama or Auburn game, come to the Troy game.”

Troy has numbers on its side. Blakeney’s Trojans have never lost a home opener in 21 prior seasons, and ULL has lost 21 straight road openers. When most people look at Troy’s 2012 home schedule, they see two games: Mississippi State (Sept. 15) and Navy (Nov. 10).

But no player or coach at the Monday press conference mentioned Mississippi State, Troy’s opponent next week.

“Everybody talks about the Mississippi State game and that’s going to be close to a sellout. But this game is more important to me because it’s a conference game and it’s our conference opener,” Blakeney said. “We don’t let up on Mississippi State or Navy, but these are our conference games.

“Lafayette (finished third in) our conference and went to the bowl game and won it. We’ve got the top four contenders in our conference coming here (according to the Sun Belt preseason poll). I know they’ll bring a lot and travel well. We don’t want them to have more fans than us.”

Arkansas State, FIU and Western Kentucky are also scheduled to make trips to Troy this year. Those four Sun Belt games will probably have fewer people in attendance than MSU and Navy – though Blakeney hopes otherwise – but those four games will determine if Troy can win a Sun Belt championship or reach a bowl game.

“I hope our people are engaged about this thing,” Blakeney said. “Let me tell you, this game this week is bigger than anything we’ve had in a few years as far as having good support at the game.”

NOTES

Monitoring Southward’s carries: Troy running back Shawn Southward had 28 carries for 204 yards, both career highs, in the Trojans’ 39-29 win over UAB last week. Southward only had double-figure carries six times last year and he’s only had 15 carries three times in his career prior to Saturday.

But Southward bulked up and improved his body for a pounding that he may be asked to take in upcoming games, especially if fellow senior D.J. Taylor can’t return from heat issues.

“You can see he’s in the best shape he’s ever been in,” Troy offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield said. “I just want to see how he can hold up. We’re going to go with him, and he’s earned that opportunity.”

Edenfield said Southward played 57 plays against UAB and “that’s probably about 10 more plays than he 
probably needs to play for him to be really, really sharp.”

Troy will still rely on senior Justin Albert and junior Khary Franklin to spell Southward when necessary.

Reeves focused on winning: Senior Chip Reeves was the leading receiver last week, catching six passes for 125 yards with three touchdowns. That could cause more attention to be paid on him this week.

That’s fine with Reeves, if the team results stay the same.

“The next game, I may go out there and only have two catches or three catches,” Reeves said. “It’s always about what’s best for the team. Next week, Eric (Thomas) might be the man and I might end up blocking for Shawn most of the game. If we win, that’s OK.”

Thomas, Troy’s leading receiver last year, had just one catch for four yards vs. UAB, and wasn’t targeted much during the game. He moved over from the left outside receiver (X) to right outside (Z) during preseason practices. The Trojans could get Thomas and sophomore Chandler Worthy, who didn’t have a catch last week, more involved if matchups dictate.

“I might throw the key block that springs the game-winning touchdown or Eric might catch the game-winning touchdown or catch 10 balls and I don’t catch any,” Reeves said. “As long as we win, I don’t care.”

Don’t look for Reeves to go away, though. Not even close.

“As a receiver, I always want to be a part of the passing attack. Every time.”

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